President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige to meet with the organised labour, to avert possible industrial crises due to increment in Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and electricity tariff.
The minister made this known when he briefed State House correspondents at the end of a closed door meeting with President Buhari in Abuja on Friday.
According to him, the meeting, which has been fixed for Sept. 12, will deliberate on state of the nation’s economy, particularly the dwindling government revenues as it affects the generality of Nigerians
He stated that he updated the president on the activities of his ministry soon after he briefed the President on the state of affairs in his Ministry.
“The President has approved for us to have a bigger government side meeting with the organized private labour; all the government institutions that have to do with the finances of government so that we meet with them and show them the books.
“So, the invitation is going out to them this afternoon, the Nigeria Labour Congress, the trade union congress and their affiliates or supporters and friends in the Civil Society Organisations.
“The meeting is scheduled for tomorrow (Sept. 12), so, I will relate more with the Chief of Staff to the President and the leadership of the unions today so that we do this meeting tomorrow.
“At the meeting, government finances, challenges and everything will be laid bare on the table. Their own fears and what they think is also good for the Nigerian people especially the workers, they will also table it so that we look at it.,” he said.
He explained that the recent upward review of electricity tariff was done by the regulatory body based on certain realities confronting the sector.
He said: “The electricity tariff as you know, the Electricity Regulatory Commission approved the increase based on certain electricity bands R1 and R2 and even in the R2 band, you have soft bands so that we can protect the rural poor and people who are in the suburbs.
“So, we are going to look at them holistically because we want a stable labour industrial union in the country so the President has been briefed and he is in tune and has given the support to talk to everybody we need to talk to.”
On the planned strike by the tripartite unions of the non-academic staff unions of universities, the minister said the government had already invited the leadership of the unions to a meeting to address their concerns.
“The tripartite unions of university system including some colleges of education and some hospitals; Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), we have invited them to a meeting.
“The leadership met with me last week and the major thrust of the challenges they have is on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) system.
“They claim and allege that the IPPIS system is over deducting some line items like taxes, the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxes they claim the IPPIS system is charging more than they are supposed to debit.
“They also claim that some allowances that are peculiar to the university system like responsibility allowance, hazard allowance, field trip allowance and education of children allowance, that the IPPIS has stopped all of them.
“At the government level, we have discussed and we now want to do a special session with them, they come with their facts and the Accountant General will lead his team, the National Salaries and Incomes and Wages will also come and the Ministry of Labour will lead and then we discuss and find out who is treating the other unfairly,” he explained.
Ngige lauded the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) for suspending their nationwide strike.
It was reported that the president of the association, Aliyu Sokumba on Sept. 10, announced the suspension of the strike, saying NARD would review the progress made in talks with the Federal Government in two weeks.